Moganshan, east China: a secret donationby Mark Kitto / September 21, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Waste is endemic in China. When you have the world’s biggest pipes, you’ll have the biggest leaks. And besides natural resources, there are other, less obvious wastes.
The village where we live is wasted. Moganshan was built by foreigners in the early 1900s as a summer resort. The 200-odd stone villas were occupied from May to October by families from all over the globe.
Mrs Zhang and her granddaughter stayed near me for the school holidays. She has the use of a villa from her husband’s parents, who slipped in and changed the locks after 1949, when the owners left China.
The government officially owns these villas. But the Zhangs—and around 30 other families like them—have the equivalent of squatters’ rights to the properties.
Since the Zhangs don’t own the villa and can’t sublet it, they do nothing but emergency repairs. For ten months every year their villa sits deserted, quietly crumbling. It’s the same with the other houses. The Zhangs pay a monthly rent of around £2. For the few villas the government does control, the asking rent is up to £10,000 a year.